Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blogging Tips from the Big Screen

Well, it had to happen: I saw Julie and Julia and loved it, and even better, I got over some of my retro gender stereotypes and saw it with someone of the male persuasion, who loved it too!

Better still (or at least equal), this is the first movie I've ever seen about a blogger. Well, half about a blogger...the less interesting half, according to pretty much everyone who has reviewed the film. And it's hard--Meryl Streep is perhaps the best actress in popular cinema today and Amy Adams is...not bad. Julia Child revolutionized cooking in America and Julie Powell wrote a fairly interesting blog for a while. Julia had Paris, Julie had Queens. It's sort of depressing to continue in this vein, because the character I identified with was Julie.

And I liked the Julie sections of the film, because they are still pretty interesting though not revolutionary or Parisian, but also because they addressed issues I've never seen dramatized before, issues dear to my heart--blogging issues.

*And* this gives me an opportunity to do a blogging-tips post here, which I've been wanting to do for a while. The reason I haven't is, though I love Rose-coloured with all my heart and it is very much as good as I can make it, it is lacking some things that make a great blog. So I really needed an example like Julie Powell, who seems to do everything right (in the film; I haven't read the actual blog; ironic?) for a little segway into the "do as I say, not as I do" territory--onwards!

1. Make it a blog *about* something, ideally something ongoing: a story that readers can follow and get involved in. Political blogs have the right idea: every day something new happens, myriad new things in fact, and the blogger with an informed and interested mind has his or her pick of things to write about that people will be interested in. A travel blog about an extended trip; a parenthood blog about a baby's first year; a tv blog about America's Top Model--I'm not saying I would read all of these, but conceptually they are very sound ways to organize a blog. Like some of the above, Julie made her task slightly harder by being herself responsible for the ongoing thing that she would then write about; that's two tasks, by my count.

Are you already sensing how Rose-coloured doesn't fit this rubric? Cause the day-by-day "happening" I'm supposed to be covering here is me being a writer, but if I limited posts to announcements of publications and readings, I'd be lucky to post monthly, and if I tried to cover each time I actually wrote fiction, a) I'd never actually write fiction and b) we'd all be bored. Which is why this blog turned out to be a miscellany, linked more or less by the themes of writing, reading, and me (which is of course far too loose--I'm learning to write reviews, but posting one of a shoe is dubiously far from the original theme of writing. Sigh.)

2) Want to do it. Julie's blog was so satisfying to readers because it was satisfying to *her*--it was her idea and she was proud of herself and eager to share her experiences, thrilled when people related to them. One of the most depressing conversations about the state of publishing I've had recently was with a group of writers who felt they "had" to start blogs to promote their books and didn't want to. They wondered what it would be like, how much work it would be, how many books they would sell. I said I loved my blog, considered it my hobby, and found it little effort compared to what I learn in the process and get back from readers. But I wasn't sure the blog had in fact sold any books. Someone responded, "Well, discounting "hobbyists" like Rebecca, what do we figure the sales increase would be?" Oh, yeah, I want to read your daily musings. (note: not exact transcript of conversation; I may have added snark).

I hope if nothing else, it's clear from Rose-coloured that I love Rose-coloured, and look forward to posting. I wrote for months when it was basically Scott and Fred reading, and if all I could keep were those two, I'd go right on. Blogging is my golf, or my knitting, or macrame or whatever; it is the companion to the fiction I write. Yes, I started the blog partly as a publicity thing for the last book, but writing the wide variety of prose I've been experimenting with here has also helped immeasurably as I write the *next* book.

3. Post regularly. Julie had 500+ recipes to make and report on in one year; I'm guessing it was a pretty well-updated blog. A blogger can totally set her definition of regularly, from a couple times a day to once a week, to...whatever you want. But I think it is important to set a loose standard that blog readers can expect. Julie rants on the phone to her mom about being accountable to her readers to do what she set out to do, and within reason that is true. You shouldn't be putting off real life to blog, but as a blog reader, I am so sad when someone who's daily comment I look forward to goes AWOL for weeks. By the time the blogger returns, maybe I've licked my wounds and moved on.

This is why #2 is so important. If you don't want to blog, you won't--blogs are not necessary to anything, no one pays you, and friendly readers are only that. You'd be suprised, if you surf around, how many blogs are mainly just apologies for not posting more, interspersed with long silences. And really, the silences are fine--it's the apologies that are silly. With the advent of Google Reader, I no longer have to go looking for updates on most blogs, because they come to me, which is perfect for those blogs that really are just publication and reading announcements for writers I like. That's not the way to get a large and devoted fandom or a book deal--but we're not all after that.

4. Have a personality in your blog. Some bloggers tell everything about their jobs, friends, family and sex lives (I've stopped linking to Ms. Trunk even for comments like this; argh!), some talk strictly about their subject matter and never even mention what they ate for lunch, but a distinctive and human (and humourous--Julie made lots of witty asides about her own ineptitude) voice is what draws well, me, anyway, to a blog. You could info on Wikipedia, after all.

5. Read it over before you post. Ok, I have no idea if Julie did this and, ok, I totally get that blogs are new form of nonpublishing publishing and that they aren't held to as rigid standards as say a newspaper. I've seen typos in my own published posts and *let them go* because I know if it was posted more than 3 days ago, the post has probably had most of the readers it is likely to get. But if there are flying leaps of logic, non-sequiteurs to the point of illogic, so many typos things can't be understood, if there are no paragraphs (common and v. annoying in the blogsphere) it seems like you didn't care much about the piece at all. So why should the reader?

That's it--the best Julie and I can come up with with regard to blogging. I know I know: there are like 100 000 blogs don't conform to all this, including mine, and some are pretty good--please don't feel like I'm rigid on this stuff. But I do feel that many people get excited by and then frustrated with the blogging experience, and these might be some good ways to keep the excitement going. Anyway, it worked for Julie.

I go where I go on my own two feet

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